Divided council approves all-way stop near Paul Ecke Elementary

ENCINITAS — The Paul Ecke Central Elementary School community will get the four-way stop sign on Vulcan Avenue they have coveted for years, but the council’s decision on the issue was not unanimous. 

The City Council voted 3-2 in favor of the all-way stop at Vulcan and Union Street. 

Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz and council members Tasha Boerner Horvath and Joe Mosca voted for the stop sign, which they said was long overdue and would keep kids safe. 

Mayor Catherine Blakespear and Councilman Mark Muir voted against it after suggesting the item be returned to the Traffic Commission to consider alternatives short of an all-way stop sign, which they said would create unnecessary vehicle stops that would create added pollution next to the elementary school.

But supporters of the stop sign said that additional greenhouse gases was an acceptable trade-off when it makes traffic conditions safer for the kids going to and from school.

“As much as we don’t want additional carbon (dioxide) in the air, we don’t want a death on our hands,” said Rebecca Conley, the president of Paul Ecke Central’s parent-teacher association. 

The trio of council members who voted for the stop sign echoed Conley’s sentiments. Boerner Horvath, who was the chief advocate for traffic solutions for the school before joining the planning commission and city council, said the solution had multiple positive impacts.

First, she said, it would divert traffic away from Vulcan — which many people use to bypass traffic on Interstate 5 — because the stop sign would deter people from using it.

Second, she said it would keep cars from queuing on Union Street, which happens in the morning when traffic is flowing along Vulcan.

Finally, “It keeps kids safe,” she said. 

“The importance of making that intersection safer outweighs that concern,” Kranz said of the greenhouse gas concerns. 

The item was supposed to be considered on the consent calendar — which the council votes on without discussion — but traffic commissioner Peter Kohl requested the item be pulled off the calendar and discussed. 

Kohl was the lone commissioner to vote against the stop sign earlier this year. He urged the council to reconsider the vote and return it to the commission so they could consider an alternative traffic-calming device known as a high intensity activated crosswalk beacon.

The traffic device is akin to the flashing crosswalk currently at the intersection, but includes a feature akin to a horizontal traffic signal that brings north and southbound traffic to a stop when a crosswalk button is pushed.

Kohl said that the commission didn’t fully consider the option, and while traffic engineer Rob Blough said the staff still preferred the stop sign option, he acknowledge the commission probably was not fully informed on the alternative. 

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